Putting words to something as ineffable as play might suggest that some activities qualify, whereas others do not. But more than anything, play is a “felt sense” ~ it can apply to anything…If we’re in the right frame of mind, whatever we’re doing can become play.
So, as Stuart Brown begins this exploration in his book, Play, I appreciated his reluctance to define it too concretely. I know when I get focused on defining something, I can get myopic and end up leaving out a lot; can even miss the point entirely. Brown recognizes the difficulty of defining play, but since he is writing about it he needs some words to at least point us in the direction.
I like his choice to focus on the essential qualities of play. Here’s what he settled on:
- Play is Apparently Purposeless ~ It is done for its own sake
- Play is Voluntary ~ If you feel like you “should” it probably isn’t play
- Play has an Inherent Attraction
- Play has a feeling of Freedom from Time ~ Sometimes described as “flow”
- When fully engaged in play, there is a Diminished Consciousness of Self
- Play has Improvisational Potential ~ New possibilities, insights, movements
- Play fosters a Continuation Desire ~ The payoff is the play itself
As long as we have to use words to communicate about such a subjective experience, these seem like pretty good ones.
Now, I admit, I feel myself wanting to jump right away to: “How do we get there from here?” And I suspect we’ll be heading there in subsequent chapters.
So instead, here’s what I’ll be asking myself this week:
If I’m not feeling playful myself, where do I observe it in others?
I’ll be tuning my attentional dial to the frequency of “play” to see how many ways I can observe, engage and experience those qualities this week.
As with any practice, it begins with observation.
I’ll let you know what I discover…How about you?